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Austrian Court Upholds Islam’s Blasphemy Rules



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Today, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a young Viennese mother, was convicted under section 283 of the Austrian penal code of vilifying religious teachings for her negative commentary on Islam in a lecture before a political-party gathering in Vienna; she was fined 480 Euros. Sabaditsch-Wolff, a diplomat’s daughter, had lived and worked for several years in various Middle Eastern Muslim countries, and at the lecture in question spoke critically of the treatment of women and the practice of jihad in Iran, Libya, and other places that she had lived in. The court found that Austria’s free-speech guarantees protected her from hate-speech charges.

However, it seems the case turned on the judge’s reasoning that her statement that Islam’s prophet Mohammed was a “pedophile” was defamatory since his child bride Aisha (age six at the time of marriage and nine at the time it was consummated) remained his wife when she turned 18. The case was brought by prosecutors after complaints by a mainstream Austrian weekly magazine that had secretly taped and then wrote about her lecture. She plans to appeal.

— Nina Shea is director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and co-author with Paul Marshall of Silenced (Oxford University Press), a forthcoming book on contemporary Islamic blasphemy and apostasy rules.



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